Aesop’s Fables are moral stories written or collected by a Greek storytelling slave in the sixth century BCE. In “The Fox and the Cat” the title characters hear hounds approaching them and need to react. The Cat sees one potential option while the Fox sees many. As the Cat runs up a tree, the Fox is overcome by choice and then by hounds.
Deciding is difficult.
Through centuries of evolution, our brain gained the ability to process complex details. Instead of a simple fight-or-flight decision, we learned to consider options and weigh potential outcomes. This made deciding harder.
Analysis paralysis is an inability to decide based on fear of choosing the wrong option and failing. This inability to act hinders people from succeeding. Here are three ways to streamline decisions and avoid getting paralyzed by analysis.
Iterate to Success
Chris Banks, the founder of ProWritingAid, encourages his team to “iterate to success”. This practice takes a proof of concept for a new feature and determines the smallest thing possible to see if people are interested. This might be an email sign up form or a discussion thread on Reddit. If people are interested, Banks tells his team to do a little more work on the idea and then ship with as simple a concept as possible.
By iterating to success, Chris Banks removes analysis paralysis from ProWritingAid’s development. Instead of endless possibilities with unknown results, the team develops focused, scalable features.
The 1–50 Rule
Danny Forest operates under a 1–50 rule. He asks himself, “How can I build and launch this in ONE day and still deliver 50% of the results.” Instead of spending weeks attempting to think through all the possibilities and their related outcomes, Forest streamlines his focus into a narrow path forward.
By hyper-focusing on a specific goal and developing in a single day, Forest removes analysis paralysis. There isn’t time to dwell on the what-ifs when working to launch.
Malcolm Gladwell introduces the concept of Thin-Slicing in his second book, Blink. Gladwell says we should decide using a thin slice of data. This requires us to rely on our intuition and gut-feelings. Gladwell says we often know the best answer to a problem but ignore these feelings because too many other options are present.
By thin-slicing and making informed snap decisions, Gladwell avoids analysis paralysis. The Cat in Aesop’s fable thin-sliced his way to the top of the tree while the Fox got lost in a sea of data.
Analysis paralysis turns fear of failure into fear of succeeding. Like Aesop’s Fox, we get bogged down by possibilities and lose the ability to decide.
While our brains have evolved to make complex decisions by factoring endless sets of data, we still have the innate ability to act. Whether it’s iterating to success, 1–50, thin-slicing, or some other method, don’t let analysis paralysis defeat you.
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